In its previous two games, Florida got some last-second heroics from Aaron Ekblad to stun the Tampa Bay Lightning.
There were no late-night dramatics for the Panthers on Thursday night.
Florida was dominated for much of the night in what ended up a 3-1 loss to Anaheim at BB&T Center.
The only reason the score was as close as it was, really, was another standout job in net from Roberto Luongo.
It was a wasted start for Luongo, who was peppered with 40 shots and surrendered two goals.
“We had some chances, we just didn’t do anything with them,” said Jaromir Jagr, part of a Panthers team that mustered just 14 shots on goal in the first two periods and 24 overall.
“They’re a big team, they play hard. We didn’t match it. We had some odd-man rushes, but we never spent time in their zone. We should have played our game, cycle the puck, make them tired. But we didn’t do it.”
Anaheim, which took all four available points from the Panthers in the two meetings this month, played big up front and clogged things up for a Florida team coach Gerard Gallant said “wanted no part” of the Ducks’ physical style.
Luongo faced 30 shots in a scoreless game before Anaheim’s Cam Fowler sent a shot that squeezed its way through Luongo’s skates for a 1-0 lead with 3:21 left in the second.
Desperate to get anything going, Gallant changed up all four of his lines to put a little pressure on Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen, who was pulled from his previous start after giving up three goals in 10 minutes.
“We didn’t play real well,” Gallant said. “They were a big, physical team, and we didn’t respond. Our guys didn’t want the puck enough. You can’t win a game with your goalie standing on his head. … [Luongo] did enough. We can’t keep playing like that against physical teams.”
Gallant’s changes worked at times, but Florida still looked slow and lifeless as Anaheim tried to put things away when Andrew Cogliano scored on a 2-on-1 short-handed chance with 5:19 left.
Florida’s Sasha Barkov gave the Panthers a chance at some more late-minute heroics when he cut the deficit in half by driving in and firing a wrist shot that clipped Andersen and found its way to the back of the net.
“We didn’t play a good game,” Barkov said. “We have a great goalie; Luongo keeps us in the game all the time. We need to step up, shoot more, create scoring chances.”
Barkov’s goal wasn’t near enough as Luongo came out of the net to allow Florida an extra attacker, yet the Ducks ended it with an empty-net goal.
“I had chances, we had chances, but it was a tough one — and we can’t play like that,” Jonathan Huberdeau said. “We have to be better offensively, shoot the puck more and stop looking for the fancy play.”
The Ducks, who stole victory from the Panthers on Nov. 4 with a last-second goal to force overtime, had lost four of their previous five.
With the Rangers coming to town Saturday, the Panthers sure could have used this one.
“We didn’t play well enough to deserve the game,” Gallant said. “They have to be the ones who want to pay the price.”
▪ Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov will not require surgery on his injured knee and should only be out of the lineup for the next few weeks.
Kulikov was injured Saturday in Tampa when he was boarded by the Lightning’s J.T. Brown.
▪ Luongo had gone 111 minutes 43 seconds between goals before the Ducks scored late in the second period on Thursday. Luongo had not surrendered a goal since midway through the third period Saturday in Tampa and stopped 76 consecutive shots.